FSRN covers Camp Ashraf

17 08 2009
The assault on Camp Ashraf has received very little attention. Monday, Tanya Snyer reported on it for Free Speech Radio News (click here for her segment) and below is a transcript of her report for those who can’t stream or, due to hearing issues, streaming won’t help.
Manuel Rueda: Hunger strikers in several countries are concerned for the safety of a group of Iranian exiles in Iraq. They say Iraqi security forces attacked people at a refugee camp. But these refugees are considered terrorists by the US government. Tanya Snyder reports.
Tanya Snyder: On July 28th, Iraqi security security forces went into a refugee camp known as Camp Ashraf, north of Baghdad, home to about 35000 Iranian refugees. The Iraqi government says they were attempting to establish a police station. The security forces were met with resistance from the residents who claim they were unarmed. The Iraqi government says some of them had stones and knives. No international press or human rights groups were allowed in to verify the reports. At least seven people were killed and hundreds injured in the ensuing conflict. Videos of the show Iraqi forces using batons and water cannons against the protesters. Francois Serres is the executive director of the International Committee of Jurists in Defense of Ashraf.

Francois Serres: Our immediate concerns are the situations of the 36 people who are now taken from the camp in the hand of the Iraqi police in Hallis, a town which is close to Baghdad. We have no news from them, we do not know their whereabouts apparently they are supposed to be tried for I don’t know what kind of offense, and we have no access to our clients.
Tanya Snyder: The Iraqi government took control of the camp earlier this year when the Status Of Forces Agreement went into effect transferring power from the United States to Iraq. Many Iranian exiles warned before the transfer or power that the Iraqi government was too friendly with the government in Iran. They said Iraq should not be left in charge of the Iranian refugees and they say the events of July 28th confirm that they were right. Organizers say Iranians in a hundred cities around the world are on hunger strikes some for as long as 12 days. Mehran Ebrahimi says he was on his way to Disney world with his grand kids when he heard the news of the attack. He has a sister and several good friends in the camp. He started his hunger strike the next day.
Mehran Ebrahimi: My tax dollars are at work those Humvees are US Humvees training came from the American soldiers
Tanya Snyder: US soldiers were at the camp on the day of the attack but in a video of the event reviewed by FSRN they appeared to do nothing to stop the violence. US hunger strikers like Ibrahimi says the US has a special obligation to intervene. Attorney Steven Schneebaum is working with the US committee for Camp Ashraf residents. He says the Geneva conventions insist that when power is transferred the old authority has to ensure that the new authority provides necessary protections for the refugees And Iraq signed an agreement with the US promising they would.
Steven Schneebaum: A promise was made by the government of Iraq to the government of the United States and that promise has been violated. And violation of that promise ought to evoke the severe concerns of the United States.
Tanya Snyder: He says in order to uphold the Geneva Conventions the United States must be do one of the following.
Steven M. Schneebaum: take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the protected persons that is a matter of law. That convention is binding on the United States as it is also binding on Iraq.
Tanya Snyder: But the people at camp Ashraf aren’t just any refugees Camp Ashraf refuse to be an operating base inside Iraq for the Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation or the People’s Mujahedin of Iran. The PMOI was an armed dissident group committing acts of violence against the Iranian government for decades. They were supported by Saddam Hussein’s government during the Iran-Iraq War and allowed to stay in Iraq after the War after Saddam Huseein left power the PMOI surrendered their weapons and their base was converted into a refugee camp.
Samer Muscati researches Iraq for Human Rights Watch.
Samer Muscati: It started off as a base and as the tide turned in Iraq and as Saddam lost power I think the position of the group changed as well and they realized that having a base was no longer an option and with no where else to go it became a defacto refugee camp.
Tanya Snyder: Since 2003 coalition forces have designated the men, women and children of the PMOI at Camp Ashraf protected persons under the Geneva Conventions but they’re still on the US State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. Some countries have lifted the group’s terrorist designation because they no longer carry out terrorist activities in Iran. Steve Schneba says the US only keeps them on the list as a diplomatic gesture towards the government of Iran. The International committee of the Red Cross has helped about 250 refugees who have asked to repatriate to Iran return to the their country but the vast majority do not want to return and international human rights organizations agree that the refugees should not be repatriated against their will. Bernard Barrett of the ICRC.
Bernard Barrett: In particular concern is the whole principle of nonrefulment which basically means that a person cannot be forced to go back to a country where they have grounded or serious fears of persecution or ill treatment because of the ethnicity or political beliefs or religion or whatever.
Tanya Snyder: State Dept officials say Iraq is the sovereign power over camp Ashraf and the US shouldn’t get involved but the 32 members of Congress have sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a letter asking her to ensure the protection of the refugees at Camp Ashraf. Hunger strikers protested outside the White House Monday asking Obama to take a stand. Tanya Snyder, FSRN.



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